The Cottagers

The Cottagers

3.6 3
by Marshall N. Klimasewiski

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"Klimasewiski brings the final curtain down with a satisfyingly wicked twist....A remarkable debut."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
Cyrus Collingwood, age nineteen, suspects that he may be a genius without a calling. He is a year-round resident of East Sooke, Vancouver Island, and has a natural resentment for the summer cottagers who descend on its rocky


"Klimasewiski brings the final curtain down with a satisfyingly wicked twist....A remarkable debut."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
Cyrus Collingwood, age nineteen, suspects that he may be a genius without a calling. He is a year-round resident of East Sooke, Vancouver Island, and has a natural resentment for the summer cottagers who descend on its rocky beaches. When two vacationing American couples arrive—old friends with a complicated history—they become his obsession. Greg and Nicholas are engaged in an academic collaboration that looks more like competition; Samina and Laurel are old friends who have grown apart and developed a strange jealousy. Cyrus spies on the cottagers through their windows, then begins to insinuate himself into their lives. When one of the cottagers goes missing, no one will look at any of the others the same way again.
Combining the eerie suspense of Patricia Highsmith and the literary fortitude of Ian McEwan, The Cottagers is about the discrepancy between the lives we live and the versions of those lives that trail behind us.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“A complex, intelligent novel.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Accomplished in its literary architecture,...sophisticated in its portrait of the tensions between vacationers and year-rounders, and chillingly believable.”
“Wise to human foibles, rich with precise and amusing observations.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A thinking person's thriller....Klimasewiski catches the subtle dynamics between people and phrases things in a way that's original, yet rings true.”
Steven Heighton
The prose is intricate (the book’s long opening sentence is a kind of anthology of English punctuation) and, especially when deployed from Cyrus’s viewpoint, its jagged, skittery progress captures the involutions of our mental lives — the non sequiturs, second guesses, qualifications and rationalizations. A friend tells Cyrus, “Sometimes you lack transitions,” and while these synaptic leaps are often effective, a few unnecessarily awkward lines take committed unraveling.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Cyrus Collingwood, 19, a lifelong resident of Vancouver Island, spends most of his time spying on the vacationers in their East Sooke holiday cottages with a mix of curiosity and resentment. He becomes fixated on Brooklynites Samina, Nicholas and their three-year-old daughter, Hilda, and their friends Laurel and Greg from St. Louis. Cyrus insinuates himself into their lives, acting the proud local eager to share the island with the visitors, and begins picking at their insecurities, including the professional jealousy among Nicholas, a successful historian; Greg, a struggling biographer; and tenure-track English professor Laurel. Only Samina, with her exotic beauty and reserved manner, remains a puzzle to him. One day Nicholas does not return from a walk along a secluded beach, and everyone becomes suspicious of everyone else. Using an omniscient narrator who unevenly reveals his characters, debut novelist Klimasewiski illustrates the who-really-knows-anyone? angles nicely, but they overwhelm the narrative voice, making the book feel idea-driven. (May 12) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"Nineteen is an age at which geniuses find their minds, by and large"-or so thinks 19-year-old Cyrus Collingwood, a year-round resident of East Sooke, Vancouver Island, a remote village whose population swells each summer with vacationers. Cyrus's genius is currently manifesting itself in the attention he pays to these cottagers as he keeps track of their whereabouts and chooses the opportune moment to change their vacation memories just before they return to their everyday lives. Of particular interest to Cyrus are two American couples: Nicholas and his Indian-born wife, Samina, and Greg and Laurel, all old friends slowly drifting apart. When Greg and Nicholas visit a nearby park one day and only Greg returns, Cyrus's life is changed as completely as are those of the tourists, who wonder whether Nicholas left of his own accord or met with misadventure. This is both a suspense story and a coming-of-age novel that evaluates friendship and the consequences of isolation. It's the first novel from Klimasewiski, who has published short stories in The New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly; recommended for larger literary fiction collections.-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Whatever happened to Nicholas Green? The disappearance of the American vacationer from a Canadian village is a crisis for the other characters but a yawn for the reader, who's in on the secret. Welcome to East Sooke, a coastal village on Vancouver Island with a mix of year-rounders and summer rentals, but watch out for Cyrus Coddington. The unemployed 19-year-old islander is a voyeur and petty thief capable of terrorizing harmless renters, bursting into their cottages at night but allowing them to escape. Now he's watching some new arrivals: Nicholas and Samina, their little girl Hilda and houseguests Greg and Laurel. They're academics on sabbatical. Greg is cheating on Laurel, who's a liar and troublemaker; their brittle marriage is juxtaposed to the indestructible union of their hosts. Cyrus watches their cottage constantly; he's fascinated by Samina, who is Indian. What else does he have to do? His absent-minded father is holed up writing a book, and his best friend Ginny is out of town. Cyrus is a half-formed creation. Klimasewiski can't decide whether to make him a truly sinister creep or just an aimless jerk, not beyond redemption. He is similarly ambivalent about whether Cyrus or the academics-with their low-level intrigue-are his primary focus. By now, Cyrus has a casual relationship with them. Alone on the beach with Nicholas, he accidentally swings a stick so hard it kills the guy. The body will wash out to sea. Strangely, the American's death does not change Cyrus. He actually joins the search party, and eventually confesses to Ginny, who's shocked. Back at the cottage, Samina is devastated, but gets no support from Laurel, who turns vicious, or Greg, more interested in whetherCyrus's father has the goods on Lewis Carroll (that's biographer Greg's field). The role of Cyrus will never become public knowledge in a story that withholds both suspense and catharsis. A limp first novel, shallow in its characterizations and lacking narrative energy.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.71(d)

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Meet the Author

Marshall N. Klimasewiski’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Best American Short Stories. He teaches writing at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives.

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The Cottagers 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Canada's Vancouver Island may sound like the ideal spot to escape summer heat and relax but as the characters in Klimasewiski's debut novel soon discover it really isn't a very good place for a vacation. No barbecues or idle days of boating for these people who seek to resurrect a friendship, only to find tragedy and suspicion. Nicholas, Samina and Hilda are a small, tight family. She is of Indian extraction and a beauty. He is tall, balding, in need of eye glasses, just what one expects an academician to look like. They will be sharing a cottage with Greg and Laurel, a pair who no longer love one another 'in any enlarging or passionate sense.' Former roommates, Laurel and Samina now regard each other with jealousy, while the men do not have a particularly high regard for each other's professional accomplishments. That would be quite enough to make for a tense situation but when you add 19-year-old Cyrus Collingwood, a native of the Island, who amuses himself by peeking into the inhabited summer cottages and snitching things, there is bound to be trouble. Cyrus considers himself to be quite able at spotting first timers and also gauging them. For instance, he would break into a cottage in the daytime when the inhabitants were away and if he found a mess - clothes strewn around, half empty wine glasses, wet towels tossed on chairs - he thought that a house treated this way suggested depression and corruption. He's an unhappy young man, and doesn't quite know why. Suspense heightens when Nicholas suddenly comes up missing. He had gone on a walk with Greg, moved ahead and then disappeared. A search is mounted to no avail. Klimasewiski shines with his descriptions of the local constable, an Englishman, and the search party made up of Boy Scouts. The Cottagers is a frightening yet compelling novel as the aftermath of Nicholas's disappearance is revealed. - Gail Cooke
harstan More than 1 year ago
Nineteen years old unemployed Cyrus Collingwood lives year round in East Sooke on Vancouver Island. He detests the summer rentals though the hot weather invaders are the prime source of income for the locals. Cyrus enjoys being a peeping tom spying on the temporary newcomers and in brazen moments loves to assault their rentals though besides scaring ten years off their lives, he normally does not harm them. --- This summer he obsesses over two families married Brooklyn couple Samina and Nicholas and their three-year-old daughter Hilda and their St. Louis friends Laurel and Greg. He pretends to be their friend by showing them the hidden highlights of the island. However, the brilliant teen reads his guests quite nicely as he realizes there is an undercurrent professional rivalry and resentment between the historian Nicholas, the biographer Greg, and the English professor Laurel as well as realizing Greg is a womanizer. The exotic looking Samina is the one that attracts Cyrus as she does not fit with the others and he fails to psychology profile her. When Nicholas fails to return from a walk, accusations fly everywhere encouraged by sly Cyrus who knows what happened on the solitary beach. --- The concept that the masks people wear in relationships change when the dynamics between individuals alter which can be caused by an outside party is proven in this tale. The story line is fascinating though the action is limited and the key characters never seem fully developed. Relationship drama fans will appreciate the hypothesis driven plot that unmasks visage armor, but fails to go deep into the psyche of the island visitors or even Cyrus. --- Harriet Klausner